The amazing, dramatic and awe-inspiring story of the daring rescue of the Thai boys from the caves in Cheng Rai, Thailand
For far too often these days we are regularly bombarded with sad, distressing and unpleasant stories of man’s sheer inhumanity to one another. There is the fairly regular story of a rocket attack(s) in the Middle East, a police station being surrounded and attacked by heavily armed insurgents in Pakistan and of a restaurant or hotel frequented by foreigners being attacked by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. These are all senseless attacks driven by pure, unadulterated hate.
Daily Diet of Atrocities
Closer home too, we hear of such atrocities being committed in Indonesian cities, in Southern Thailand, in Southern Philippines islands and even sometimes in Malaysian cities. The newspapers and 24-hour news broadcasts from local and international TV stations trumpet these stories with all the gory details on a regular, almost daily basis. Bad news sells like hot cakes!
On top of all that, these breaking news stories also appear on the internet, in whatsapp messages on your smartphone and on FB too. Of course, some of these are fake stories. However, the daily broadcast and publication of these ghastly stories have, to some extent, numbed many of us to all these gory happenings.
Simply Labelled as Collateral Damage
Despite all our so-called advances in science, medicine and space to name a few, man is mighty quick to revert to his prehistoric stage with little provocation. For the simpleton in him, it is easier, faster and much more satisfying to REACT to issues and problems than to seriously THINK matters through carefully.
Just take a cursory look at all the wars going on in this world currently.
The only people and companies laughing all the way to the bank are the mighty armaments manufacturers and their sleazy enabling, powerful political allies. These unprincipled politicians seek the people’s mandate to go to Congress or Parliament but then, once duly elected, choose to conveniently forget their solemn obligations to the electorate.
For these duplicitously evil people, all the damage and destruction of the cities and the resulting deaths of many civilians are casually and conveniently labelled as collateral damage!
No wonder, George Bernard Shaw, the famous Irish scholar once astutely remarked: Politics is the last refuge for scoundrels!
Let me be quick to add that there are exceptions to this rule. The legendary GBS was a well-known playwright, literary critic and dramatist as well as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.
Faith in Humanity Restored
Our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity when it matters most was restored recently when there was a huge effort launched by the Thai authorities to save 12 young soccer players and their amazing 25-year old coach who were trapped in the caves in Cheng Rai. Cheng Rai is in Northern Thailand and is close to its bigger and better-known city, Cheng Mai.
The fate of these boys and their coach trapped for 18 agonisingly long days in these dark, damp and flooded caves kept people in Thailand, the region and even globally riveted to regular news broadcasts on both national and international TV. Here, in Malaysia, there was much hope for a successful rescue even though we were informed that this was going to be a very difficult and hazardous operation at best.
However, since the Thai Navy Seals were leading the rescue operation, it was their firm belief that failure was not going to be an option! As the rescue attempt got underway and success begun to make an appearance, as many as 90 divers were involved. About 50 of them were Thai Navy Seals and the rest were the foreign divers.
Complex, Difficult and Dangerous Rescue Mission
At its height, the rescue mission involved almost 1000 personnel. Leading the rescue mission were Thai Navy Seals ( divers ). Also providing expertise in locating the boys were internationally acknowledged expert divers from the United Kingdom. There were three: John Volanthen, Richard Stanton and Robert Harper.
It was John who managed to locate and then speak to the boys. One of these three divers from the UK had some valuable experience in these caves on a past visit. And that precise knowledge proved most useful.
Mapping Knowledge of Tham Luang Caves
Another British expert caver named Vernon Unsworth provided detailed mapping knowledge of the caves that was so vitally important for the rescue team of divers.
This was because the rescue team needed such information about the complex, narrow network of twisting, flooded tunnels.
Green Light for Rescue
It was an Australian expert diver and doctor named Richard Harris who first examined the boys in the caves and subsequently gave the green light for the rescue operation to begin. He is also an anesthesiologist by training and practice. At some point before the rescue began each boy had to be sedated for the journey.
And for sure, it proved to be a tough mission.
But with the combined wisdom, experience and expertise of the diving professionals what was initially termed as a mission impossible turned out to be a success beyond measure.
Do keep in mind that none of the boys could swim and neither did they have experience in diving. In addition, the weather was threatening to wreak havoc and derail their plans.
Heroic International Effort All The Way
When it was first determined that the boys needed to be rescued, it was generally agreed that this was going to be an extremely complex, difficult, dangerous and daring rescue mission. International assistance came forth readily.
The United States sent some armed forces personnel from its Pacific Command to assist. A few individuals ( diving experts ) from the following countries assisted willingly: United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Canada and Australia. Some foreign dive operators in Phuket and other islands in Thailand also joined in.
In the case of the Australian doctor, he interrupted his vacation to assist in the rescue operation. All these international volunteers came to assist at their own cost and willingly. They took time off from work and family matters in a wonderful, selfless show of true humanity at its very best. This rescue mission was no walk in the park! One Thai volunteer paid the ultimate price while on the mission.
Remarkable Cohesion of Thai Society
It is often said that sometimes it takes a tragedy or a disaster to bring out the best in people. This is very true in the case of the rescue mission of the 12 young and calm boys.
Here are a few examples of that amazing Thai resilience.
- Monkhood and Meditation: The soccer coach was a Buddhist monk for ten years. During that time, he had learned about meditation. He is credited with keeping the boys calm. The coach even gave whatever food he had to the boys. This is truly inspiring leadership by example;
- Accepted Flooding of their Village and Fields: The villagers who lived near the caves readily accepted the water that was being pumped out from the caves to flood their village and rice fields. They did not mind the consequent damage to their crops and the village. They believed in helping in whatever way possible to save the lives of the young boys;
- Free Laundry Service: A young Thai lady who operates a laundry service nearby offered free laundry service for all the divers involved in the mission. The mission, mind you, lasted 18 days. What a thoughtful contribution;
- Free Oxygen and Diving Gear: A local businessman in Cheng Rai who ran a shop selling oxygen tanks and diving gear etc donated a number of such tanks for the rescue mission. Another selfless act of solidarity;
- Villagers Brought Food for the Rescue Volunteers: Many local villagers were seen bringing cooked food for the volunteers on a regular basis; and
- The Sacrifice of Petty Officer Saman Gunan: This former Thai Navy Seal actually volunteered to assist. While transporting oxygen tanks to the trapped boys and on his way back to the surface, he ran out of oxygen and passed away. Such a fallen hero is worthy of great respect.
These are just a few related human interest stories that give us much hope for the future of humanity. When we come together for a greater and noble cause, much can be achieved.